Oklahoma’s National Guard border deployment estimated to cost $825,000
Oklahoma Guard members may be deployed to the border again in 2024
An aerial view of the American flag flying over an international bridge as immigrants line up next to the U.S.-Mexico border fence to seek asylum on December 22, 2022 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished unless you have a subscription to Getty.)
OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to deploy Oklahoma National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border is expected to cost taxpayers at least $825,000.
The National Guard estimates the 30-day mission, which concludes this month, will cost $825,000. The bulk of those funds will be used to pay the roughly 50 Guard members deployed to El Paso, Texas, according to a document released by the National Guard in response to an Oklahoma Voice public records request.
Stitt, who has been critical of President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, initially authorized up to 100 members of the Oklahoma National Guard to deploy to the border after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sought aid from fellow GOP governors shortly after Title 42 — pandemic-era border restrictions — expired.
Stitt has said the deployment is in the best interest of Oklahoma and the nation, but some critics have called it political grandstanding.
The mission authorization form issued as part of an agreement between Oklahoma and Texas estimated the deployment would generate $550,800 in personnel costs and $270,524 in travel costs. Another $3,963 would be needed to cover the cost of commodities, including fuel, food and other basic supplies, according to the document.
The form notes Oklahoma “agrees to supply resources at no cost to the State of Texas.”
It’s unclear whether the National Guard or the Oklahoma Military Department will have to cover those costs. National Guard spokesperson Maj. Kristin Tschetter referred to Stitt’s office a question about who will foot the bill for the deployment.
A Stitt spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about how the deployment would be funded.
Stitt visited the state’s National Guard troops at the border last week before joining Abbott and other Republican governors in a news conference to accuse Biden of not doing enough to secure the nation’s southern border. Stitt also met with members of the National Guard at a July 30 ceremony ahead of their El Paso deployment.
Abbott last week said 15 governors had deployed military personnel to assist his Operation Lone Star in securing the Texas-Mexico border.
The number of border crossings in June dropped to the lowest level since Biden’s first full month in the Oval Office. The Biden administration has touted the decrease as a result of stricter asylum rules, in addition to policies making it easier for migrants to enter the country legally.
The governor believes Oklahoma has a responsibility to assist Texas in securing the border when the federal government fails in that duty, Stitt spokesperson Meyer Siegfried said in a statement.
“Governor Stitt knows that secure borders are essential for a strong country,” he said.
Citing a rise in fentanyl deaths in Oklahoma since 2019, Siegfried said every state has become a border state due to the widespread impact of drug trafficking.
Most of the illicit fentanyl coming across the border is seized at legal ports of entry rather than illegal border crossings, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. More often than not, the people smuggling illicit fentanyl are legally authorized to cross the border, as opposed to migrants seeking asylum.
Stitt could have a greater impact on fentanyl interdiction and reducing human trafficking if he spent $825,000 on programs in Oklahoma, said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City.
“If the governor really wants to be pushing on these things, he ought to be looking here at home instead of sending National Guard troops down to Texas to serve as traffic cops,” Fugate said.
A member of the House Veteran and Military Affairs Committee, Fugate said 50 National Guard members are unlikely to make a difference when there’s already thousands of Border Patrol agents policing the nation’s southern border.
Guard members will return from El Paso by the end of August, but there is the possibility of another 30-day deployment next year depending on the needs of the Texas Military Department, Tschetter said.
Guard members staff security checkpoints and alert local authorities to migrants who are trying to cross illegally.
About halfway through their deployment, Oklahoma National Guard troops had made contact with about 1,800 migrants, some of whom surrendered or turned back. These interactions led to the apprehension of at least 20 “bad actors,” Tschetter said.
“The mission is going well, and morale is high with our personnel,” she said. “Guardsmen have been able to assist the Texas Military Department in redirecting people to legal entry points.”
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